The National Archives of the Philippines (NAP) in collaboration with the National Commission for the Culture and the Arts (NCCA) and Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) launched the ASEAN Pandemic Response Archives (APARA) conference on October 19-20, 2021. This three-day conference aims to recognize the various challenges faced by the Southeast Asian region and to collect data on how they devised strategies to deal with the pandemic. 

Victorino M. Manalo, Executive Director of the National Archives of the Philippines (NAP) and Chairperson of Southeast Asia Regional Branch of the International Council on Archives (SARBICA) said that the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic has caused drastic changes in people’s way of lives. In his message for the opening of the APARA conference, he said the pandemic also highlighted the role of archives in documenting the challenges people encounter and the measures they devised to meet these challenges.

“May we learn from each other and may we come up with the best practices on how to preserve the poignant lessons and messages of the pandemic—of this great global human experience for future generations,” Manalo added further. 

Jonathan G. Tan, Head of Culture and Information Division, ASEAN Socio-cultural Community Department and one of the Keynote Speakers for APARA lauded the conference “it is wonderful to see the convening of this conference which is part of the ASEAN response.” He underscored that the COVID-19 pandemic is more than just a health crisis, but also a human, social and economic crisis. 

The APARA initiative was inspired by the Tsunami Archives of India and the response archives of other countries. This project aims to gather pandemic records by simply bridging each region to collect records on how they devised approaches and initiatives to address the pandemic.